MU graduate students vote to unionize

Grad Students
UNION VOTE: Psychology graduate student Amy Underwood (left) casts a ballot in the vote to unionize graduate students at the University of Missouri-Columbia last week. – Columbia Missourian photo

Columbia, MO – University of Missouri graduate student workers have overwhelmingly voted to unionize.

The Columbia Missourian reports about 84 percent of the 795 graduate students who voted were in favor of allowing the Coalition of Graduate Workers, an affiliate of the Missouri National Education Association, to represent them in collective bargaining. Voting took place April 18 and 19.

“We’re thrilled, we’re gratified. It’s the democratic will of grad student employees,” Joseph Moore, member of the Coalition of Graduate Workers organizing committee, told the Missourian.

A simple majority was enough to take the next step toward unionization, but workers will still have to wait for university administration to recognize them before they can negotiate.

And, it might take a bit of convincing.

In an email to the Graduate Professional Council on April 8, MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley wrote, “any vote to unionize at this time cannot be considered binding or recognized by the university,” according to previous Missourian reporting.

Missouri law states employees have the right to collectively bargain and form a union, but MU has never officially classified graduate students as employees — even though the Graduate Professional Council passed a resolution in February reaffirming graduate students’ rights as employees.

At the UM System Board of Curators meeting April 15, UM System Interim President Mike Middleton said, “The problem is that in the state of Missouri it’s not clear that students have a right to collectively bargain.”

Moore told the Missourian he was confident the university would recognize the results of the election. He said lawyers were prepared to file a lawsuit if they didn’t, but he hoped it wouldn’t get to that point.


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